14 January 2011

First non-stop Hawaiian flight service commences thanks to US ESTA program

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Hawaiian Airlines launched its inaugural flight to South Korea yesterday, moving into a market that is expected to grow further thanks to South Korea’s inclusion in the US ESTA program.


Hawaii will see an increase in South Korean visitors thanks to new direct flights and the ESTA.

The new nonstop, four-times-a-week service will bring 54,000 seats a year into Hawaii, and generate about $86.4 million in annual visitor spending.

South Korea's inclusion in November 2008 in the US Visa Waiver Program opened the door for Hawaiian Airlines to further expand in Asia. South Koreans are able to travel to the US without a tourist visa, which involves a US Embassy visit and lengthy waiting times, but rather apply for an online ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

"As we think about where the growth opportunities are for us in the coming years, we're already the undisputed leader in interisland travel, we're the leader in travel between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, and the natural spot for us, where we see a lot of growth in tourism coming to Hawaii, is from Asia," Hawaiian Chief Financial Officer Peter Ingram said.

"Today is a big step in terms of us becoming a leader in air travel between Hawaii and Asia."

Korean Air is also scheduled to increase its weekly flights between Seoul and Honolulu to 14 from 10 in February, bringing a total of 18 flights a week to Hawaii from South Korea.

In the first 11 months of 2010, 79,131 Koreans visited Hawaii, up 75.3 per cent from 45,148 during the same period a year earlier, according to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA).

The HTA is predicting that 115,225 Koreans will visit Hawaii this year and forecasts South Korean visitor spending will increase 38.2 per cent to $230.2 million.

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